In part one of this two blog series, I talked about the 5 most common reasons why we experience cravings. Titled, "De-coding your cravings – Why we Crave (What we Crave)," part one of this series introduces you to both the physiological and emotional factors (like anxiety, stress, sadness or boredom) that send us running into the frig or pantry for relief. Understanding the reason behind your craving can make it easier to fill that gap with something you really need - instead of something you really don't.
(If you missed the first part of this blog series, check out my July 2, 2018 post, “De-Coding Cravings, Part 1 – Why we Crave (What we Crave).
Now, let’s talk about WHAT we crave most and what those specific cravings tell us about our state of well being on any given day.
SUGAR... the front runner and fan favorite!
Sugar is our single most common craving. We crave sugar because, well, it’s in our DNA. Some research suggests sugar is 80X more addictive than cocaine and, fun fact, it is one of only two foods we are born liking (breast milk is the other). But what does it mean when we reach for sweets? Simply put, when we crave sugar, we're craving energy. Sugar gets converted to energy in our blood stream faster other foods. When we crave sugar, our bodies are looking for energy, STAT!
Are you foraging for sweets at 3:30 p.m.? Here’s some science to help explain why: Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. our bodies experience a dip in circadian rhythm (this dip makes us sleepy). It's human biology and it happens to everyone (phew). If you haven’t had a nutritious lunch, or you didn’t front load with plenty of water and a healthy snack around 2 p.m., or you're freaked out about the 4 p.m. status update with your boss - you’re at risk of getting caught out and reaching for the soda, coffee, energy drink, cookie, candy, or that sad doughnut still hanging on from this morning's meeting.
To summarize, the good news; that afternoon drag you feel is normal, it happens to everyone because it's part of the human biological cycle known as our circadian rhythm. (so don't panic). The question is, how will you handle it? Will you choose high sugar options that will energize you quickly but just as quickly leave you feeling like you're coming down with a sudden case of unconsciousness?
Or, will you take a walk on the healthy side and choose a long-chain sugar option like hummus and carrots, or an apple with some nut butter? Those options offer you slow burn energy (complete with fiber and protein). Best of all, they won’t leave you depleted or up a pound on the scale tomorrow morning. If you crave sugar or sweet foods all the time, introduce foods into your diet that contain naturally occurring sugars like carrots, sweet potato, winter squashes, beets, grains, corn, onion, leeks and fruits.
Cravings for junk food or highly processed foods suggest a nutritional deficit.
Junk food and processed food cravings keep the body seeking more, while you’re getting way too many calories, you’re not getting the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need, so you crave more (it’s a seriously slippery slope).
When you’re craving salty foods regularly it can suggests a mineral imbalance.
Crunchy, Smooth, Creamy, Cold?
The texture and temperature of what you want plays a role in cravings as well, especially with emotional eating. When people are stressed or anxious, they tend to crave crunchy foods, when they’re sad, they crave smooth (comfort) foods.
Be your own cravings detective
Pay attention to what, specifically, you’re craving. Note the time, texture, and what you may have eaten over the previous 24-48 hours that could be driving your craving.
Cravings aren’t a problem or a sign of personal weakness. They are messengers, carrying information about your emotional and physical state of being.
Cravings point to a dietary or emotional area that’s out of balance in our daily lives. The body is uniquely masterful about sending you a clear signals to pay attention. Learning to listen, to develop a dialogue with your body and be able to interpret those signals is essential to good health. Appreciating and trusting your body, and what it’s telling you, is essential to your happiness too. Listen closely to what your body is telling you – she knows more about you than you realize.